Mary Williams Founder of Sensible Woo
Episode 257

Project Management and Building Systems for Creatives and Freelancers with Mary Williams

April 27, 2021

Project management is an important skillset for entrepreneurs – it’s the work that will allow you to take a big idea and turn it into reality. But as business owners in the modern age, we tend to think of project management not as the skillset, but as the tool, the shiny piece of software that we believe will lessen the load. In reality, without understanding the basics of a project management plan and of the systems and processes that make up your business, the software will not help, as Mary Williams presents in this episode, along with some non-tech practices for discovering how you need to project manage, and yes – the best software and technology for bringing your business processes into the digital age.

Learn More about the Topics Discussed in this Episode
This Episode Brought to You By:
"I believe everybody has the ability to learn how to be organized in the way that works for them."
- Mary Williams

Discussed in this Episode

  • Mary's journey from Digital Archivist in Disney to being an entrepreneur
  • The analogy of the "Business Gym"
  • Struggles bosses encounter in project management
  • Digital Feng Shui and Sensible Woo
  • Basic systems and software to assist you in making your business run smoothly
  • The magic of post-it notes for uncovering your business systems and processes


More from Mary Williams

More from Emily

Almanac Supply Co.


Emily Thompson: [00:00:00] To build a business that you need to build systems, and you need to be able to take your ideas out of your head and take strategic actions on them to create what you want to create. If I'm being honest, bosses tend to fall into one of two camps with this. You're either a total Type A to whom this comes incredibly naturally, or you're a wildly creative who struggles with it.

[00:00:34] Maybe not being as organized as is it best for running a profitable business? There's no right or wrong way to get organized and build systems in your business. There's only doing the work in the way that you need to do it. Welcome to Being Boss, a podcast for creatives, business centers and entrepreneurs who want to take control over their work and live life on their own terms.

[00:00:55] I'm your host, Emily Thompson. And in this episode of Being Boss, I'm talking organization, systems, processes, project management, and the tech that online business owners use to make it do with Mary Williams. Mary is the chief technology therapist at Sensible Woo, where she works with highly sensitive online business owners to make their data management and software systems of flow with ease so that their online businesses actually run online.

[00:01:24] By teaching her clients that they are their own best tech guru. She helps them discover how to make their business back end match their public facing brand through a system. She has developed to call that Digital Feng Shui, she helps clients master milestones, so they have time and energy for more clients and more revenue.

[00:01:46] Mary is an accredited librarian with her Master of Science and Information from the University of Michigan School of Information and started her career as the digital archivist for Disney animation studios. She has also worked with marketing agencies, entertainment, technology companies, public libraries, fundraising organizations, and technology startups.

[00:02:09] Mary welcome to Being Boss. How are you doing today? 

Mary Williams: [00:02:13] I am good. Thank you. Thanks for having me. I am. I was telling you before we started recording that I was so excited to talk with you because I've been one of those fan girl podcast listeners for years. And then you asked me to come on and I was like, yes, yes.

Emily Thompson: [00:02:28] Good. Well, I asked you to come on because we were in a community Monday meetup one day and a boss asks a question, I think about your incredibly colorful calendar background situation. That's happening. That is spectacular. And the way you answered that question, was so succinct and it proved that you were an expert at what you do in a way where I was like, okay, this boss is coming on the podcast, simple as that.

[00:02:58] So just like, one, thank you for bringing a member of the community and coming in and lending your expertise and two a message for everyone. Show up, show up and be an expert because you never know who's listening.

Mary Williams: [00:03:09] I think showing up is more than half of it. A lot of people, you know, we're going to talk about project management and systems, all that good fun stuff.

[00:03:17] But even there, like showing up is more than half of it. And I see people not show up in that area and then they wonder, why is it a mess? Why am I struggling? It's like, you just have to show up. It's the hardest. And yet also the simplest thing. 

Emily Thompson: [00:03:36] Well, let's talk about maybe making it a little more simple.

[00:03:39] I think that's kind of what we're going to be talking about today. But before we dive into that, I want to introduce you to the bosses and, and get to know you a little bit better too. So if you don't mind start us off with sharing your entrepreneurial journey, how did you get to where you are today? 

Mary Williams: [00:03:54] Oh, it's been a long and winding road.

[00:03:56] Like most people, I actually started what they corporate career, like I think a lot of people do. Um, I have a master of science and information from the university of Michigan school of information. So I am a, for real, real life librarian. And I went straight into a corporate career. I didn't go into traditional libraries.

[00:04:16] So I started as a digital archivist at Disney animation for years, and did software development, did amazing things with really cool art that a lot of people don't get to see. So that was a really great way to start your career and then felt like I got an MBA by digging into the corporate world. Um, And I started side hustling at the time I had been doing resumes for people is work study in my college days.

[00:04:44] And when I graduated all my friends who had gotten resumes for me had all gotten the jobs they wanted. So they started referring their new friends and their new cities. And I thought, I'm not doing these for free. Like I got to get paid for it. So that was like the very beginning of my journey. And it eventually morphed into blogging.

[00:05:01] I had a sewing blog during the golden age of blogging when we could still get really good sponsorships and promotions on long form blogs. And I learned content marketing by being in the trenches back in those days. And I made pretty good side hustle income from it like enough that I had to declare it on my taxes and everything.

[00:05:21] So people started asking me business questions and they wanted to know like, how are you making money? How are you doing this? And at the time, while all of that's going on, this is such an entrepreneurial thing to do. So I am also a metaphysical reader. I've been reading tarot and the Akashic records for.

[00:05:43] At last count, like about 20 years. And at the time people would Paypal me and I would read for them on the phone on nights and weekends, and then Zoom came along and I could give them a recording and it made it easier. And so the whole time, while I'm doing my library career in and out of corporate and public libraries too, I'm also reading and I'm writing a blog and I'm, I didn't realize I'm learning all the things I need to learn.

[00:06:08] And then, one day I decided it's just it's time to make the jump. Like there's never a perfect time. And I was like, if I don't do this now, like I'm just going to get comfortable in a golden coffin somewhere. And like, I've got to do it. And so I made the jump, and I started by doing B2B corporate contracts because my old entertainment pals would call me up and they said, Hey, are you still doing what you're doing?

[00:06:36] We need help. And so I had corporate contracts for a while, but quickly discovered. In my readings that I much preferred working with small online business owners, because they were all in, they were all in on their businesses in the way that my corporate contract we’re not, and in the world of entertainment, people move around a lot and everyone's kind of got a foot out the door.

[00:06:58] And so it was just a little less satisfying even though the money was good. And I discovered that the questions that my entrepreneurs were asking me hit a sweet spot for me too, because they were trying to hit that beautiful space between their intuitive woo woo side and their, you know, very practical business building side.

[00:07:18] Like they saw that space too. And they recognized it in me, which is why they would ask me questions in the middle of readings about like their launch or about tech systems. And I'm like, this does not require tarot cards. And I realized maybe, maybe we need something else. Maybe I need to start creating something else.

[00:07:36] And then that eventually grew into Digital Feng Shui, which is the system that I lead my people through now, mostly just as a framework to help us build a bridge. In our heart space to that more analytical space, to get better with our systems, get better, organized, be more efficient, all the things.

Emily Thompson: [00:07:59] I mean, I guess, well, would you agree every business owner needs to be organized in their system? Agreed. Agreed. But I wanted to make sure you're the expert here on that, because that's definitely, that's definitely something that I find to be true. And I know that's something that creatives struggle with oftentimes is that organization piece.

[00:08:26] So I'm wondering from you, I mean, I feel like I know the answer to this question, but librarian, archivist, literally teaching this stuff, do you, do you find yourself to be naturally organized? 

Mary Williams: [00:08:41] I am. I know not everybody is I have my messy pockets in life and just like, I like to teach people in my community at Sensible Woo.

[00:08:51] I like to teach that we live in seasons, just like we go through the seasons of the year and except our working seasons, aren’t quite so containerized. Like mother nature sort of runs on this very steady schedule. Sometimes we have short seasons. Sometimes we have long seasons, but we have seasons.

[00:09:11] And it's not necessarily like four seasons, like spring, summer, fall winter, but, but our seasons exist. I've seen people run like six or eight seasons in a year or just one really long season. And I think when you can tap into that, you can start to realize that, you know, I think I'm a little more organized than I give myself credit.

[00:09:33] It just need to recognize what season I'm in. I've had a lot of growth in the past year. COVID was actually fantastic for my business. So, but I hit a season where it was really busy, very quickly. I immediately saw the areas. I was a little unprepared and so it got chaotic. It got messy. The organizer in me wanted to right that ship very quickly.

[00:09:57] But when you can recognize it, then you can start to build in the time and the space and grace for yourself to make that happen. And I think what happens is we kind of blast through like just trying to get to the next place. And, you know, we don't really build in that gray area. And it's just kind of like in our actual natural earth based seasons, You don't just flip over from one season to the other, even though it can feel like that in some parts of the world, I grew up in Michigan and it feels like one day it's winter and one day at summer, I know that feeling, but, but that's not really what happens.

[00:10:31] You know, like the leaves don't all fall off the tree in one day that takes some time. And the leaves, don't all bloom in one day, either. Like it takes a little bit of time and I feel like the same thing needs to be recognized in how we operate in our businesses. That some things take a few days or a few weeks, and you need to give yourself time to bloom or to shed or to do what you've got to do.

[00:10:58] Which can be frustrating because I'm super Type A, and I love everything to happen like two weeks ago. So, you know, you really have to like have a conversation with that side of yourself and almost negotiate with yourself, like, okay, you know, this is what we're going to do. Here's the plan.

[00:11:17] Let's build a plan and get it done. 

Emily Thompson: [00:11:21] Have you found that, so that's your experience and your experience working with people, at least you semi-organized, but let's say you're a creative who does not identify with being creative literally at all. Do you still have those seasons? And do you think that naturally unorganized people can learn to be learn to be organized?

Mary Williams: [00:11:43] Yeah, I believe everybody has the ability to learn how to be organized in the way that it works for them. I think sometimes we see what somebody else does and they're like, Oh, look at the way Emily does that. I have to do it just like her. And I think those are great anchors for us.

[00:12:06] Sort of in that energetic sense, when you can see something sort of like, I can see it, I can believe it. And that's a great anchor point, but it doesn't mean that we have to copy it exactly. Just like you can't copy someone's career trajectory. Exactly. But you're like, I want to be the next Oprah.

[00:12:24] You're not going to be exactly how Oprah got to be Oprah. You're going to figure out what's my path to getting to that, that goal marker. And it's going to look just a little bit different because you naturally are going to feel different than the person that you're emulating. So, just kind of like my calendar is, you know, a lot of people like them and they do work for a lot of people, but I always

[00:12:49] counsel my students that you have to give yourself about a sprint, and this is a really good sort of rule of thumb for any kind of system setting. There's a reason why a lot of [00:13:00] masterminds and business programs like to work in 90 day sprints. And it's because sort of naturally again, seasons about a quarter of the year

[00:13:08] you need time to settle into some new process or some new way of thinking. So many way of being, I always forget the number of days it takes to set a new habit, but that kind of, that feeling like you just have to do it for a little while. And I always tell my people just because you learned my color coding system, like this start with that as a place to begin.

[00:13:33] But over 90 days, if that's going to shift naturally for you, go with it, do what feels right for you. Because if you do, it feels right for you and you actually buy into that and adopt it, then you'll continue to do it. And the world won't be so messy or disorganized, but if you're constantly trying to shove yourself into someone else's square hole and you're around peg, like I think that's where creatives really kind of feel that, that friction, because you know, when you're being creative, I mean, you're really allowing yourself to expand and to think differently and feel differently and do differently.

[00:14:17] And you can't necessarily limit yourself. I think that feeling of limitation is what sort of squashes that creative energy. So giving yourself permission to be creative in the process of discovering how that system's going to work for you is really important. And sometimes you discover that that system does not work for you.

[00:14:36] Like I've had people try the wall calendar and they're like, yeah, that doesn't work for me. And it's like, okay, that's good. It doesn't work for you. So now let's find out what does let's find out? What does work for you. But sometimes you have to try things if you don't know that it's the thing for you yet.

Emily Thompson: [00:14:50] Yes. I agree with this recognition that you have to find the thing that works for you. I think one of the, one of the best examples I have of this is we do talk project management software in the community. Often. Everyone's always wanting to know what, like what apps for using what planner are you using?

[00:15:05] All of those things. And it's always so funny to me. There's always like multiple camps, right? Like there's those people whose brain works in Asana and there's people whose brain works in Trello and people whose brains work in Trello did not work in Asana like they're wired differently. And there is this, like this acceptance that you have to, that you have to have that you're going to try a system.

[00:15:29] If it works, use it. If it doesn't work, find another one, because there are so many tools available to us or so many systems and tools available to us that it is a process of testing and changing. And I love this like 90 day commitment situation of like try it for 90 days because there is a learning curve.

[00:15:48] I think that we all have to accept as well. We're not all just going to fall into a system immediately. We have to like give it a good go. And then. Trying the next thing, if it doesn't work, I feel like that's a, it's a wonderful set of like a mindset shifts that, we all need to make so that we can find the systems that work for us that allow us to be organized because organized being organized helps us accomplish the goals that we're here to accomplish the goals that we need to accomplish.

Mary Williams: [00:16:17] Yes, it really does. I feel like chaos is an exciting place to be sometimes, and it can also be an addictive place to be for many people. And it can also be the thing that brings the whole house of cards down real quick. So, you know, learning when to, I think learning when to operate in a state of chaos or disorganization in a healthy manner, isn't is a really worthwhile mindfulness pursuit as an entrepreneur.

[00:16:50] Because you're going to have those seasons. You're going to have that creative season when chaos, sprains, and you're in that like messy state of discovering and doing things and that's fun. But if you stay there forever and you don't systematize your thing so that it can scale and grow later on, you wonder like, why am I stuck?

[00:17:12] Or why is nothing happening or why did my offer die? Or what happened to my community? And it's because there's too much chaos. It'd be like, if it was a windy day, every single day and the wind just never quit, you'd be like, Oh God, I'm never going to be able to rake these leaves. They just keep blowing all over the place.

[00:17:30] And, you know, you need a calm day here and there. And, and, and it's, it's again, like, it's so easy to say it. And in reality, if you're used to operating on that rhythm, it can feel really, really uncomfortable at first. But, you know, it's kind of like, I teach my community. I use all kinds of analogies and I have this thing.

[00:17:53] I called the business gym because a lot of them struggle with making time for things, time management is, I think is like a perennial problem for a lot of us. And I always make the analogy of, you know, when you've paid for a really expensive trainer at the gym, like there's no makeups, there's no refunds.

[00:18:09] Like you will clear your calendar to get your butt to the gym and meet your trainer. And it's amazing to me, how many times we'll shove our businesses aside here and there a little bit. And before you know, it, it really adds up and you have to make the appointment at the business gym and you have to go and it's uncomfortable at first.

[00:18:28] Like the exercises don't feel good. You're like dragging your ass to the gym. And you're like, Uh, I just don't want to be here, but then you start seeing results and then you're like, now I know I go, I might not always like it, but now I know why I go. And pretty soon you find exercises that you actually really love doing.

[00:18:48] And there's that class that you really look forward to going to, and you have your friends there and pretty soon, like, it doesn't feel like this chore, it feels like a part of your life. And that's really where we're trying to go. When it comes to project management.

Emily Thompson: [00:19:03] That is the best analogy I've ever heard adopting systems, because you're absolutely right.

[00:19:12] And it really is that place of like, once you start seeing those results, because you create systems in your business, For the purpose of getting results, right? Like you want to create the product or deliver to the client or whatever in this process that gets this final result. Every single time in those, those systems create the result and together those pile up to greet bigger results like it.

[00:19:40] But it's something you have to show up for. Right. Which is going back to what we even opened. It 

Emily Thompson: [00:19:45] We have to show up for, for ourselves, for our businesses, for the systems in our businesses to garnish the results that we're looking for.

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Emily Thompson: [00:21:36] I love it. Okay. Then let's start talking about these systems and project management and all of these things, because this is really, and it's funny. There's a couple of things in the being boss community at large, both our membership community and everyone who listens. There's a couple of common, common struggles with bosses.

[00:21:56] Time management, marketing are the, always the biggest to project management is always a very close third because we're all creatives. We all have these ideas. We want to make them happen, but creatives tend to struggle with seeing the connection between what they want to do and how to actually make it come to fruition, because there's a million little steps in the middle that is required to get there.

[00:22:21] So what is your process for working through this? Or how do you think creatives especially should, should wrap their head around project management in a way that allows them the ability to do what they want to do? 

Mary Williams: [00:22:37] So I really feel like it goes back to a process of self discovery. And if you're not naturally inclined to just sort of jump in, I feel like people who do project management really well, sometimes don't realize how well they do it.

[00:22:53] It's sort of like, people who are really intuitive sometimes don't realize just how intuitive they are. You know, when you're good at something, you don't think about it. And, but I think when, you know, you're not as tuned in, you really feel it because you see other people doing it well. And so there's sort of this self discovery process of understanding and well, how do I exist in this universe and how do I, I want to exist in the universe in this way.

[00:23:20] And you know, I, so I love doing a thing because I feel like a lot of times people get technology mega mixed up inside of systems and project management, and they are separate things. And I'll also find, because we love our tech gadgets and there are some really cool apps out there. They can be also be very distracting, highly distracting, and they can take you away from the actual process of project management, like actually making a plan.

[00:23:51] So I teach people to take the tech away. We do a lot of things on surprise post-it notes and we learn how to work flow through on a post-it note for a number of reasons. One of the big, big reasons, because I tend to work with a lot of intuitives is, lot of times, highly sensitive folks will check out our bodies and we'll just stay up in our head space a lot.

[00:24:20] And what happens is, is if you're not in your body and you're not feeling your business, and you're not communing with your business, this is the woo woo side of sensible woo. If you're not communing with that entity, that is your business. It's a really hard to connect with what really needs to happen, not how am I going to shove this thing to the end goal, but how am I going to make it flow in the way that feels good to me and clearly feels good to my audience and to my business.

[00:24:47] And so. I use post-it notes with my community, because there's something about the simple act of touching a physical object, like a piece of paper. And when you're typing on a computer, you can stay up in your head forever because it's in the computer. And even though you're touching the keyboard, it's still not the same thing, but when you have to grab a Sharpie marker, and you have to write one thing down on a post-it note and slap it up on the wall and then move them around suddenly you're in a very different operating space.

[00:25:18] So I would say if somebody is having a hard time sort of sorting their thoughts, it might be because they're really staying too much in their head trying to make it work in Asana or in Trello. And those might not even be the tools that work for them in the long run too. So you're, you're already shoving yourself into something that doesn't work for you.

[00:25:36] And until you can get to the point where you can decide, is it Asana? Is it Trello? Is it something else? Take yourself off the computer, you know, I'm a lifelong Costco fan. Like I'm a mega Costco fan. Like I should work at Costco. I love them so much. That's another podcast conversation. 

Emily Thompson: [00:25:57] I love that.

[00:25:57] I recently did Costco too and remembered how much I loved it. So I'm relating to that very well.

Mary Williams: [00:26:04] Costco topless, Costco. They have like a lifetime supply pack of post-it notes and I go to Costco. I love their office supply aisle. They've got packs of Sharpie markers. They've got all the things we use at sensible woo.

[00:26:21] I love it. And you can pick up the, packs of post-it notes and find yourself like a good like long closet door or. And, um, bathroom mirror or an empty wall or clear up some space, I've even done it where like I have a rectangular shaped kitchen table and I'll clear it off. And sometimes I'll just use that flat surface as the surface for doing my work.

[00:26:47] And, you know, you can do serious workflows with post-its, but you can also sort your brain. So one of the best things I love to do, and this might help some of our creatives in our boss community is when everything's swirling and it's all chaotic. I think sometimes we think we have to create structure immediately, but I think the more important thing first is to just get it out, get it out of your brain, into a place where you can sort it.

[00:27:16] And it's kind of like doing laundry. Here's another analogy. So it's kinda like doing laundry, like, um, you know, if you sort your socks in one pile in your undies and another pile in your shirts and another pile, you will fold your laundry so much quicker than if you're just digging through the whole huge pile.

[00:27:33] And then like, Oh, I found one sock and you're like, where's the other, like, just get everything out of your head, dump out the laundry basket in sort your piles. And you can do that on post-it notes. You can get fancy if you want to. And color-code it. So if you already kind of have an idea of categories, like these are my marketing things that are coming out of my brain, and these are my product-building-related things coming out of my brain.

[00:27:55] And maybe this is something for my VA, all the things for my VA, they're all coming out of my brain and you can put them in different colors if you want, but you don't have to. And once they're out of your brain, you can actually see them and then you can move post-its around and start creating some structure that helps you figure out what's the highest priority.

[00:28:14] What turns out. It doesn't matter. Now that I see it laid out next to everything like that, that thing that just doesn't matter anymore. And in the rule is only one thing per post-it note. I've seen people try to cram like 20 things on a post-it note. Like, no, no, no, just one, just one thing. And they can see the volume of it too.

[00:28:36] I've had some people do the brainstorming thing and discover that the chaos was just more of an emotional response to maybe a couple of really big projects. And it turns out they have like five post-its, you know, and then I've had other people where they're like, well, there's like 50, it's so many.

[00:28:55] It's like, okay, well let's do something with them. But you can then start to prioritize. And I think the prioritization is what's so important because we really want to focus on revenue, generating activities. You know, my goal as a coach is to help someone make more time, make more space, make more money.

[00:29:13] I mean, that's why we're in business. And if we're spending our time on the little itty-bitty post-its. That are like, you know, rearrange my paperclip collection. That's not necessarily going to help you move your business forward, but if you have one, that's like reach out to my hot prospects. Like I have a list of them.

[00:29:33] Like you probably want to bump that up on the list and when you can see it, then you can do something about it. 

Emily Thompson: [00:29:39] I love this recognition that you have around getting off the tech and into a post-it note. I don't use post-it notes, but I do do all of my big business planning, like the big visioning stuff, like the ID aiding and, and like the, the sort of broad stroke project management in a notebook like it's pen to paper.

[00:30:01] It is getting, there is a whole other process that happens in your mind and body when you're writing it with your hand. And if you're typing it with your fingers, I also love this idea for people who struggle with the tech of it, because what you, what I often find, and I never really quite put this together until now.

[00:30:23] So thank you for this is that oftentimes when people are trying to use a new piece of software, you're not project managing, you're learning new software. And so if you're annoyed that you can't project manage, it's not that you're not project managing is that you're struggling learning the piece of software.

[00:30:40] You're not doing the thing you actually need to do. You're experiencing a learning curve. That's not necessary.

Mary Williams: [00:30:48] Yeah. I’ve also seen some of my clients go through our workflow process, which is sort of like a big step up from that sort of brain dump process, but actually making workflows and deciding like your customer journey and big things like that.

[00:31:01] And, and they'll come back and they'll say, I found this great app. Like how about if we all use this app? And I'm like, time out people time out!

Emily Thompson: [00:31:12] If we all had a dollar, every time we heard someone say I found this app.

Emily Thompson: [00:31:19] Yep. Yep. 

Mary Williams: [00:31:21] It's like a drinking game.

Mary Williams: [00:31:24] And I'll tell them no, you know, and there's always this like crestfallen look on their face, but I'll explain to them the reason why I'm like, you can go into that as your next step, but you're going to do it on paper first. There are very few people, by the way, some there's like 1% of people I've, I've met in the world who can handle going right into that, at that cool

[00:31:46] app, the 99% of us, no, because what happens is you're actually working through your process. Process comes before software. So you're actually working through your process. And as soon as you go into that app, you're distracted by like, Oh, they let me change the font. Oh, I can change the color. And now you're like totally distracted on something that has nothing to do with solving your process.

[00:32:08] And the other thing that I love about, doing things on paper and not even really great paper, like post-its scrap paper, nothing precious is because at some point you're going to want to change something. And when somebody spends a really long time picking the perfect shade of pink and the perfect font, and then you say that thing, like that's not quite fitting in your process, right?

[00:32:31] And there's this emotional letting go process now needs to happen. And it's really hard to do. And I feel like as creatives, we can get really attached to some of our projects because we really love the thing that we created. And so what we're trying to do here is. Create a process and not make it so precious at the beginning so that we are willing to let things move around and change, you know, and I feel like our era of COVID has been such [00:33:00] a great playground for this because I saw, like, it was almost like a 50/50 split in my sort of view of the world.

[00:33:09] When, when the pandemic hit, I saw like sort of half of the entrepreneurs I follow and they just sort of were like, I'm going to pivot and move and I can move things around. And they were very flexible and they just kept on running and some of them picked up speed on top of it. And then there was the other half and they were like, Oh my goodness, I have to change.

[00:33:28] Ah, my world just fell apart. I feel like I've been cut off at the knees. Like this is so hard all of a sudden. And I think it's because like, we have to learn how to get into this state of like, Your systems are constantly going to evolve your processes constantly going to evolve as your business grows, you have to evolve.

[00:33:47] You can't do it the same way forever. At some point, you're going to need help if you've always been a solopreneur and that's really going to change your process. And if you get so precious about, well, I spent like 50 hours building it in, you know, mural the app. I can't change it now, you know, and it it'll take me forever to do another one.

[00:34:08] You know, that's what, that's what we're thinking when we spend that long on something. And what I really try to coach my people through is not to let yourself go there, but to actually work on the growing and the building part of it

Emily Thompson: [00:34:23] Right. Become not like attached to the system because you want to remain flexible, but do not to become attached to the software.

[00:34:32] Right. It is about learning your system and your process about implementing that thing because a great system or process can be applied to any piece of software. 

Mary Williams: [00:34:43] Yes. And there's no software so amazing that it will solve a system or a process problem. I think some people think that, Oh, that piece of software has all the bells and whistles.

[00:34:55] It looks so fancy. And the entrepreneur that I idolize uses it because they're her sponsor and they're doing all these things. And then, and then that, that person, that entrepreneur hasn't actually solved for their process yet they don't really have a system. And there are fundamental things broken in that process.

[00:35:18] And then now they're shoving their beginning of a process into a piece of software that may or may not actually help them grow. And sometimes these pieces of software can be really expensive and we can dump a lot of money and I've seen people spend so much money on so many. I really feel like at the beginning, you know, there are very few tools that you really need.

[00:35:46] And it's tempting, you know, especially at the holidays, black Friday sales, our software companies are so good at selling us everything. They're so good at selling lifetime subscriptions. You know, I had a client one time and we do an inventory process and Digital Feng Shui, and she did her inventory and discovered she had not one, but two lifetime subscriptions to ConvertKit.

[00:36:07] And the whole group was like, how do you buy two lifetime subscriptions to ConvertKit? And she's like, I don't know, but apparently it's possible. And you know, of course convert kid lovely people and they corrected that problem, but she had purchased two and she had never used it once. 

Emily Thompson: [00:36:22] Oh my goodness.

[00:36:24] Yeah. Oh, right, right there. I've never thought about this in this way. Especially like someone who's in here using all the tech and doing all the things, but I will, I have an interesting example of, of even doing I've done what you're talking about doing naturally. I remember whenever I was running in DJ biography, which is my web design agency, whenever I was growing the team and we were changing projects and doing them in a new way, instead of immediately going into Asana, which we've been using, I've used us on our for 15, 

Emily Thompson: [00:37:02] Right. Oh my God. That's so weird to think about. Yeah. Look at us, they're old businesses. But I remember using, I remember with the team formulating this note card process for our website projects, like that's how we did our process. First. We could all see it. Literally I went and got, I went and got pegboards and put it up on a wall.

[00:37:25] It was a whole thing. And then once we sorted it out, it lived on Asana. And so this is, Oh, this is such a like great process for anyone who was working through processes in their business. Don't learn the software first, learn your processes first and then apply them to the software. 

Mary Williams: [00:37:47] Yeah. I mean, this whole thing about like the note card thing that you're talking about or putting post-its on the wall, it's not a new thing.

[00:37:54] It comes from the software development world. Ironically enough, you know, UX designers will get together in a room and they will do, what's called an affinity diagram and they'll get whole teams in basically to get everyone to do the brain dump one thing per post-it. And when you can see everything up on the wall and you can move it around, you can then organize the features and what your expectations are.

[00:38:19] And you can get the stakeholders in the room. It's such a corporate thing to say, to get the stakeholders in the room. And when you're an entrepreneur, you are the stakeholder, usually like the primary stakeholder, but as you grow, sometimes there are other stakeholders too. And you know, learning how to work through process, I think is one of the more powerful things that we can do in business.

[00:38:42] And I think it's unfortunate that so many entrepreneurs wait so long in their entrepreneurial journey before really digging into this. And I think it's because, you know, there are so many precious things that come up. Like I got to make some revenue, I gotta make some money. I gotta get paid. And that's a really important thing.

[00:39:03] It's really valid. But I think sometimes we focus so much on marketing and thinking that, you know, more followers will equal sign more, whatever, fill in the blank. And sometimes it's not really true. You know, I always love asking people cause people will say, Oh, I wish I, I had, you know, some random number of clients, you know, everybody's got their number and I'll ask them, I'll say, okay, well, how many do you have today?

[00:39:32] And it's usually less than that. And I'll say, okay, so what happens if tomorrow you were, you know, booked to be on Oprah and suddenly you went viral around the world and now you had that number of people. Can you handle it? And they're usually like, no, and I think it's such a great story. And I remember back in the day, I am such an over fan.

[00:39:56] Like in college, I would purposely not book classes during Oprah Showtime. Like it was my thing. I had to be in my drummer watching over and she would do her own story. Favorite thing, you know, favorite things, episode, yeah. In the holidays. And, I remember stories coming out after that, of like the cookie company or the jewelry company.

[00:40:15] And they went bankrupt or they had to go out of business because they got featured in their systems were not prepared for that volume and they couldn't handle it and it broke their business. And I think sometimes as entrepreneurs we'll spend time hoping and wishing then manifesting that big explosion.

[00:40:35] Meanwhile, the systems are not being set up for it. And so if that happens, it literally breaks the business. Where it breaks you and that's even worse, you know? There's enough anxiety in entrepreneurship. You just don't need to do it.

Emily Thompson: [00:40:54] For sure. I mean, you definitely, oftentimes entrepreneurs think that the only problem, the biggest problem they have is sells, [00:41:00] right?

[00:41:00] But sales doesn't solve all of your problems. Oftentimes more sales can cause problems because there are problems that you haven't addressed because you thought the only problem you had was not enough sales. And that's, that's the picture you're painting here. It's a very important part of what it is that we do.

[00:41:21] It's not just getting sales, but as business owners, as entrepreneurs, our job is to build businesses and businesses are sets of processes and systems that get you to a certain result that provides value to your customer or client. So if those systems are in place, even with sales, you don't have a business.

Mary Williams: [00:41:44] No. And the bigger your sales machine grows without the process, when you need to fix it, that process, those systems become way more expensive to fix way more. And sometimes you end up needing to hire more people which complicates everything, because there's so much happening that you literally need more human power to help sort through a bunch of things.

[00:42:15] And it's just, it becomes a really painful thing and it's just like layers of complication. So if you can prepare sooner and it's never going to be perfect, but if you can prepare sooner and start thinking in a systematized way, it really will help you expand in a much healthier fashion down the road, because if you're consistent and you keep at it, it's inevitable, you will grow.

[00:42:39] And. You know, you will learn things and you will grow. And I think sometimes it's just because we're thinking so much, you know, so many things based on like revenue, numbers and revenue is still a vanity metric. You know, I've seen, I've seen some businesses. I worked in some startups back in my Austin days.

[00:43:00] And I've seen some startups where like on paper, their revenue was, you know, a few million dollars, but the operating costs behind the scenes. Cause it was so chaotic and it was so messy and it was, I don't know if I can swear on your show, but it was such a thing. It was a shit show and, and the cost of trying to maintain the shit show behind the scenes was exorbitant and frankly, unnecessary and

[00:43:31] in our, in our entrepreneurial journeys are smaller solopreneur style journeys, or small teams. It may not be as dramatic as a startup. That's really trying to like just sheaves something out into the world, but it's, it's still the same problem.

Emily Thompson: [00:43:48] For sure. For sure. And I want to reiterate what you just said because agreed and mic drop moment, but revenue is a vanity metric, right?

[00:44:00] Like it is not, it is not the sign of a healthy business. And a lot of people think that that is the sign of a healthy business. There are a lot of metrics that go into it and without all of those metrics in place as well, revenue doesn't mean anything. You can have a shit show business that could fall to pieces in a second.

[00:44:20] Whenever Oprah recommends you, that's not a healthy organization at all. Even if you're making a gazillion dollars. I love it. Okay. Then I think I'm hoping we have painted the importance of getting your systems and processes in place of being able to take an idea that you have and create the business process or system that, that allows you to do the thing that you want to do.

[00:44:50] Now I'd like to know other than post-it notes, which you have probably also to lifetime supplies, I would imagine

Mary Williams: [00:44:59] And the whole office cart next to my desk, you don't want to see the bottom, the bottom layer. all the 

Emily Thompson: [00:45:07] All the post-its. That aisle in Costco is like an entrepreneurs version of a candy shop. Like I totally UN I recently did that with pens, just so you know, I came home with a big thing and pens and David was like, why did you buy those? 

[00:45:21] And I was like, how could I not? 

Mary Williams: [00:45:21] Well, when you're in the store, everything looks normal sized and then you come home and you're like, yeah. Is that that's weird 

Emily Thompson: [00:45:34] For sure. For sure. So I'm wondering other than poster notes, what tools. Even though we know that tools are less important than the process, but what tools, what are some of your favorite tools that you use to run this part of your business?

Mary Williams: [00:45:52] I'm a really big fan. Well, I am also in Asana user and I totally agree with you. Some people are Asana brain or Trello brain, ClickUps, becoming a thing. Now, find a thing that feels good to you, and you'll find a way of working with that. I'm a big fan of using Asana for, I'm actually doing a lot of brain dumps, like idea files because I can have it on my mobile device with me and being a creative person, like things come to me at the oddest times and I can just pull up the app and I'll just punch it in and I can have an ugly idea file.

[00:46:26] And then I can have time later set aside to do CEO time and like actually go through those things later. Um, but I feel like one of the very first things that. Most of us need, um, before anything else is a calendar scheduling tool and I'm a really big fan of Acuity Scheduling. I think if you're not yet at the point where you want to pay for it, um, or you're just sort of getting comfortable with the idea of a scheduling tool using the free version of acuity or Calendly as a great idea.

[00:46:55] I'm more of an acuity preference person, because I feel like it has features that, um, are just more robust. So we use that in, in my community. I'm a really big fan of the scheduling tools because they help us do additional things in our digital calendars, which is the next tool. That's super important.

[00:47:15] I feel like if you're going to be a boss, you've got to boss up and I love me some paper. I love paper notes. I love post-it notes clearly. But one thing that I refuse to go back to as a paper calendar, and I feel like in this day and age, especially if you have any online offerings, which frankly, all of us do all of us do.

[00:47:37] If you're emailing with clients, you are doing something online. So having a digital calendar is really, really important. I see a lot of people miss appointments or double book themselves, or have a problem. And it's not that acuity scheduling or Google calendar or outlook calendar can't or I tell them like, it's not that they can't save you from a problem because problems happen.

[00:48:00] But I do feel like it's really important to utilize technology for what it's meant to do for you. And those tools help you automate a really time-consuming part of a working day. You can spend a lot of time managing your calendar, and if, if you can get used to automating that process and having things run out of your calendar as much as possible, it will save you so much.

[00:48:26] So, you know, I'm a really big fan of teaching my folks to start abiding by their digital calendar, especially with everything being onZzoom these days, making sure that. All your meetings that you've accepted or that you have created have the Zoom link in the location field. So you have to do as click and go.

[00:48:45] You're not digging through your email. I really try to recommend don't work out of your email. Your email is a communication tool. It's not a storage device and it's not. And, and I, and I'm also a really big fan of using, cloud storage for data management, because it comes with automagic backups. They feel like automagic, not automatic.

[00:49:11] And I have worked with people who have only stored things on a hard drive and then wondered why they're having communication problems with their assistant. And it's really hard to communicate when it's all in your drive. That's like the equivalent of having a only up in your brain. And I've seen people not have any of that backed up, which is so dangerous.

[00:49:31] I've seen people fill up their hard drives and then everything's moving so quickly. They'll go out and buy another Mac Book. Because they don't have time to deal with the existing. 

Emily Thompson: [00:49:41] Oh my God.

Mary Williams: [00:49:46] guys it's real extra, it's real, extra, um, more than one somebody more than once somebody, we need to be clear that today 

Emily Thompson: [00:49:54] never even considered that as an option for that scenario.

Mary Williams: [00:49:57] Okay. Some people do their own to each their own. Um, yeah, we don't want to go there. And, and then beyond that, I feel like having a really strong payment system is the next important thing.

[00:50:14] So I'm a big fan of Stripe. And obviously getting comfortable with Zoom is really important. And then everything after that becomes extra, it depends on what you're working on. I know you're a fan of Podia because they're a sponsor of the podcast. I'm a podia user. I use Podia to basically manage how my clients come through into my online world.

[00:50:37] And it works great for that, but there's a process behind that. There's a process that I have decided behind that and chose that tool for very specific features and benefits. Um, because there are, uh, bill Jillian tools that you can choose from. So, yes. Yeah. There's, there's so many tools that you can choose from.

[00:50:59] And I think the important thing is, recognizing what is the bare minimum that helps make sure you're doing. Increasingly less and less busy work throughout your day. And also what tools help support the encouragement for you to clear out brain space and heart space so that you can, you know, work intuitively and creatively inside your business and not be cluttered with like, You like little kids, like tugging on your sleeve.

[00:51:25] Like, mom, I need you to pay attention to me. It's like, no, like here's, here's, here's where you live. You live here and I gotta be right here right now. And I find that sometimes entrepreneurs will get stuck with all the things happening at the same time. And then, and then overwhelm sets in and then there's burnout and we all know those stories and yeah.

Emily Thompson: [00:51:47] Gag over here. Just bringing that up. Ooh. Yes, for sure. And I appreciate you sharing all of those because what you're also doing. I did this this month and the episode of Making A Business, which is exclusive to the clubhouse where a shared my tech stack for Almanac Supply Co. And I shared it for several reasons.

[00:52:09] But one of those is because I know a lot of online business owners, our people here, um, we are especially new ones, struggle with investing in the tools that are going to help them run their business. Like is $20 here, and $40 here and $60 here or whatever it may be. And it starts to add up snd there's like these weird feelings of, it's just a piece of software guys, best investments you're going to make in your business, replaces employees.

[00:52:36] It gives you more brain space, gets things done in your business. If you do it right, it's going to help you get paid more, give you more time, like all of these things. And so what you've just illustrated is that. There really are a number of tools that you need just baseline to rev, run your business. And then on top of that, you're likely going to need, sort of specialty tools to help you get your particular job done.

[00:53:02] And my episode of making a business, I outlined 22 different pieces of software that we use to run that business. All of them have a purpose. All of them are in use. All of them are functioning and bringing in revenue or otherwise making, giving a space or helping us communicate better. These tools are important, but only if they have a working place in your business.

Mary Williams: [00:53:31] Yes, they have to have a purpose. And I know podcasts have a long lifespan. So whoever's listening to this and it's the holiday season. If you have not used the tool before don't buy the lifetime subscription. I think that's one of the first things that we need to do is go month to month until, you know, it's the tool that you want.

Mary Williams: [00:54:01] stuff, yourself, a whole lot of money, a whole lot of grief. Yeah. 

Emily Thompson: [00:54:06] I think we definitely, I mean, at all, both at Almanac and it being boss, we're spending well over a thousand dollars a month on our SAS or software as a service. But it saves us so much money in terms of like man time, man labor was that word.

[00:54:23] Man hours, that's the word or woman hours or whatever hours. It saves us so much time and energy and it helps us do things that we could not do otherwise. And I see that investment as like, that's the equivalent of, if I were paying rent with a brick and mortar store or something similar, like it is a cost of doing business.

[00:54:45] Doing business online is not free. 

Mary Williams: [00:54:48] No, it's not and automation is not automatic. It takes set up. I always have. Yeah. there's nothing passive about passive income in automation is not automatic. Yeah. You know, you really have to,  you have to build in the setup. Of those systems and tools, but it also requires, you know, your business is such a great example, you know, your market and, you know, your offers, you know, what you're offering.

[00:55:20] And I feel like when folks are still in that offer market fit stage, where there's still kind of, you know, it's like a new deer learning how to walk, you know, like it's up, but it's kind of wobbly. And, and we're like that in our businesses, sometimes in multiple areas at the same time for a while. And, and there's nothing wrong with it.

[00:55:41] It's just a stage. And you have to recognize when you're in that stage so that, you know, like now is the time to learn how to walk. If I see someone ahead of me and they're full on sprinting, like that's good to see now that I see it, I can recognize it. But if they're using some big, huge system. You know, check yourself, like, am I ready for that yet?

[00:56:08] Is that really what I'm doing? Like, do I have a clear market? Do I have a clear offer? How many times have I been offering this? Have they bought it at full price yet? What is the flow, the rhythm and flow of that energy coming through your business so that you can actually then address that energy and flow for the pace that it's running.

[00:56:29] And so it also feels good for you because you might discover that just because it looks impressive. Somebody else's sprinting ahead of you you're like turns out I hate running. Like I don't want to do it. Sure. 

Emily Thompson: [00:56:42] Yeah. For sure. Each, each piece of software is one that needs to be tested. It needs to be utilized, used to be implemented, needs to be like.

[00:56:53] Updated and upkept, um, and sort of re-analyze to make sure that it's still still usable. Cause you mentioned this in the beginning, like our systems and our processes, they are ever evolving. They're always changing. And do you believe that the pieces of tech that make up our business have to change and evolve as well?

Mary Williams: [00:57:12] They do. And there's always something new coming out in the tech world, which is exciting and fun, but also really distracting. And I think if you know your process, you know, when to recognize, Oh, that thing's really cool. I can appreciate it for being super cool, but I don't need to jump on it. There's no FOMO, maybe a little bit, but there's, but there's not enough to be like, I got to grab that offer.

[00:57:41] And, and when you don't have that. Assuredness within yourself and your business. It's really easy to jump on those and say, Oh, well, maybe this tool will solve my problem. And that's not the way we solve business problems. It's not the way we want to solve business problems and it's definitely not the way that builds good systems either.

[00:58:05] So he can be surprised you can save so much money at the beginning of business for a very long time. 

Emily Thompson: [00:58:11] Yeah,  for sure. Perfect. Well, Mary, this has been a treat. I could talk systems and processes and tech and testing and changing literally all day, every day. I have loved having this conversation with you.

Mary Williams: [00:58:27] Thanks for having me. I'm so glad you wanted to talk about it. 

Emily Thompson: [00:58:31] Of course, of course I do all day every day. But would you mind telling our bosses where they can find more about you. 

Mary Williams: [00:58:40] Yes. they can find me on my website, it's and they can also find me on Instagram, same handle at @sensiblewoo.

[00:58:50] And on my website, I have a free library as a librarian. I firmly believe in having libraries. So I have purposely built over the years, a small and growing free library with pretty robust things. They're talks that I've given at conferences and then converted them into, you know, online format. there's a really meaty one in there, called your energy audit for learning.

[00:59:14] How to think about your business, like a house, like how you would function at your house. And a lot of people have really enjoyed that. Um, a couple of our bosses have hopped into there and they've been having a fun time. So I would encourage people to dig into that if this is starting to resonate for them and they can message me anytime from anywhere in there.

[00:59:36] I'm always, I'm always available. 

Emily Thompson: [00:59:39] Perfect. And we will be sure to add links to that, to all of our show notes. And my last question for you, Mary, is what makes you feel most boss? 

Mary Williams: [00:59:49] Goodness. You know, what has made me feel most boss in 2021, I started the year and I said, I hadn't created a word of the year in a long time.

[00:59:56] And I said, I'm going to make a word of the year, this year. And the word is no. Yeah. 

Emily Thompson: [01:00:04] Love it. Saying no is one of the most, most boss' feelings in the world. I will concur with that.

Emily Thompson: [01:00:12] Well, thank you so much for coming down with me.

Mary Williams: [01:00:13] Thanks so much for having me. I love this community. I hope more people hear this and come join us there.

[01:00:22] It's such a beautiful group of people. Agree. We have conversations like this every Monday. It's wonderful. Yeah. 

Emily Thompson: [01:00:29] And you get to come see Mary's wall. Which is the best.

[01:00:42] Whether you want to learn more about project management, tech tools, or the systems that make your business run, or you want to share, what's working for you with fellow bosses. I hope you'll join Mary and me and a whole bunch of creative business bosses in the being boss community grow together through our monthly themes and content connect with like-minded creatives and ask your burning questions to bosses who get you and what you do in our online community platform or live in a number of virtual events each month.

[01:01:10] Learn more and sign up now at And until next time, do the work, be boss.